The sum total of human liberty grows any time a single individual enjoys expanded freedom. So much the better when rights grow through popular consensus, as is likely with bipartisan legislative approval in Albany, rather than through activist judges.
Although some Neanderthals may object to this supposed expansion of freedom, the editorialist assures us not to worry:
The same principle, by the way, demands that religious institutions not be forced to perform marriages they don’t sanction. Their liberties, too, must be protected.
So there! We’ve expanded freedom once again while protecting the liberties of those who may have scruples about what the Post editorialist is rejoicing over. Not quite. Special protection for those thought to have been deprived of rights has come at the cost of those whose rights are being restricted. A gay rights or feminist bill invariably removes rights from people who are thought to be in violation of what some government agency demands. To give proof positive of accepting a newly protected lifestyle or group, an employer or renter will have to strain to show that he is not “discriminating.” Such a person will be expected to lean over backward as evidence of good intentions. In practice, this translates to mandatory favoring of those who are being specially protected.
“What about individuals who for religious or moral reasons find themselves repelled by gay marriage…or gay anything?”
“Discrimination” in these instances is being broadly interpreted to allow public administrators and judges to push dissenters into rethinking their basic values. In 1970 the IRS (with resounding media approval) denied tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist college in South Carolina—not because this institution kept blacks from attending, but because it discouraged interracial dating as a matter of religious principle. Such a policy, as Justice Rehnquist noted in a single dissenting opinion when the case came before the Supreme Court in 1983, did not contravene the existing law about the purpose of tax-exempt institutions. Bob Jones was stubbornly resisting the progressive thinking about race relations that civil rights laws were intended to produce. Religious conscience was made to take a backseat here to an evolving government policy aimed at altering attitudes.
It is also outrageously dishonest to pretend that religious dissenters will be protected with gay marriage’s legalization because churches will not—not yet—be forced to perform the offending ceremony. What about individuals who for religious or moral reasons find themselves repelled by gay marriage…or gay anything? Grant Havers, a Canadian professor and devout Protestant, has kept detailed evidence of government bullying that has been inflicted on his countrymen for failing to submit to what Robert Weissberg has called “coercive tolerance.”
By now, Havers’s dossier could fill entire library shelves. Although Canadian provinces and the Canadian federal government through its “human rights” purview have not explicitly compelled religious institutions to perform gay marriages, they have by no stretch of the imagination respected dissenters. In the 2001, Ontario evangelical printer Scott Brockie was fined so heavily as to ruin him financially. His crime was that he refused to print material for the Lesbian and Gay Archives. Brockie was found to be in violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code, which obviously was not mindful of his rights as a citizen.
In the relatively conservative province of Alberta, pastor Stephen Boissoin was ordered by a provincial Human Rights tribunal to renounce his views on homosexuality after publishing some disapproving remarks about gay unions. This case came three years after the same tribunal hauled before it the Catholic Archbishop of Calgary for expressing his disapproval of gay marriage. In both cases expensive appeal processes were begun. But while Archbishop Henry backed out of the imbroglio by issuing a “clarification,” Boissoin allowed his case to go all the way up to the highest appellate court in the province, the Queen’s Bench. There the appellant was relieved of the heavy fine that had been imposed by a lower court but not of the charge of having engaged in “hate speech.” This year, comedian Guy Earle was fined $15,000 for giving offense to a lesbian heckler during a routine in a Vancouver restaurant.
It is naïve to believe that First Amendment rights will be a permanent protection against such excesses. The US Department of Education, the Justice Department, and other federal and state agencies are already monitoring our words and demanding remedies for insensitive speech in educational institutions and in the workplace. (See my book After Liberalism, pp. 107-09.) The Canadian situation is not unimaginable, because public administrators and judges have already breached guarantees of free expression and free exercise of religion. But they have done this in corporate settings, applying government pressure to alter the values and mindsets of those associated with institutions instead of censoring isolated individuals’ views. It is also incorrect to imagine that the legalization of gay marriage in New York or in any other populous state will not significantly change the degree of control that is already being exercised over us because of existing anti-discrimination laws affecting gays.
The concerns of religious organizations that the “all but inevitable” passage of the gay-marriage bill will further limit their institutional freedoms are well-founded. Henceforth discrimination against gay spouses can and will be treated (however ludicrous this may seem) as an attack on the sacred institution of marriage.
It is equally questionable whether legislators any more than judges are legitimizing gay marriage because of a democratic “consensus.” If by consensus one means a settled, widely shared opinion, this is not what we’re talking about. True consensus, as opposed to fabricated public opinion, can only arise in real communities. It cannot be manufactured by the media and entertainment industries, but unfortunately these are the influences to which our under-thirties crowd has become increasingly susceptible. Factoring in the effect of public education, one has a complete picture of the supposed consensus being formed. The Still Divided Academy (a work by two of my young former colleagues, April Kelly-Woessner and Matthew Woessner) proves that most college freshmen have already been conditioned by the educational and entertainment establishments to embrace liberal social views. Adolescents happily accept that what they are made to believe is “liberal,” often with the illusion that they are choosing their own values.
Their parents may be compared to floating objects, located somewhere between fragmented communities and the world that their offspring inhabit. These middle-aged parents do not form a “consensus” but, like the kids, they can be persuaded (albeit more slowly) to accept what is fashionable. Obviously the media and universities have been working overtime to create a “consensus.”
Up until the 1970s, when I first noticed journalists and intellectuals pushing the incipient gay agenda, it is unlikely that people favored gay marriage any more than they endorsed legalized bestiality. After all, heterosexual unions are not a recent fad but the way hominoids have lived for the last million years. It may also be historically important that the “gay community” and their advocates are browbeating uncooperative businesses, law firms, and political figures. A Bronx Democrat and state senator, Ruben Diaz, says he has received numerous death threats since he publicly stated that he had reservations about voting for gay marriage. A writer for the Advocate, Jonathan Rauch, has warned his gay allies that the time has come to cool down. It may be necessary to “leave room for homophobia” now that his side is winning. Gays, explains Rauch, shouldn’t accommodate their reactionary critics by appearing to be “bullies.” To which one might reply: “Why not?” Bullying tactics have only helped them so far.
Given these forces it is not surprising that almost overnight a “consensus” has emerged in favor of gay lifestyles and gay unions. It was also predictable that this trend should be particularly popular among minicons, RINOs, and the more recognizable left. Perhaps we should now try to fashion a new “consensus” for unions between humans and chimps. Legislators and the Post could champion this project the way they have gay marriage. The government could then depict “chimpophobes” as the sworn enemies of freedom.